Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.
Previous Top Ten Tuesday Topics
- May 3: One Word Reviews for the last ten books I read
- May 10: Bookish Characters
- May 17: Books I Was SO EXCITED to Get, but Still Haven’t Read
- May 24: Book Quote Freebie
- May 31: Comfort Reads
I do love these title based themes for the Top Tens: they bring together unexpected and unusual combinations of books and dredge up old favourites alongside exciting new titles. This week it is titles that contain a unit of time, submitted by RS @ The Idealistic Daydream including
seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, eternity, etc.
And I think, looking at the novels below, this is a somewhat eclectic mix!
Let’s take these books in the order of increasing duration….
10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in This Strange World, Elif Shafak
One book immediately sprang to mind with this topic: Elif Shafak’s wonderful 10 minutes and 38 Seconds In This Strange World, the time in question being, apparently, the length of time between a heart stopping beating and the brain ceasing to function.
‘In the first minute following her death, Tequila Leila’s consciousness began to ebb, slowly and steadily, like a tide receding from the shore…’
For Leila, each minute after her death recalls a sensuous memory: spiced goat stew, sacrificed by her father to celebrate the birth of a yearned-for son; bubbling vats of lemon and sugar to wax women’s legs while men are at prayer; the cardamom coffee she shares with a handsome student in the brothel where she works. Each fading memory brings back the friends she made in her bittersweet life – friends who are now desperately trying to find her . . .
This novel is exquisite and tender, optimistic and brutal, devastating and touching, centering on the lives and love of the dispossessed and the outsiders to society: prostitutes, women, transgender. It is a novel of two halves as we witness the final memories and stories in Tequila Leila’s mind as it shuts down; followed by the aftermath and her friends’ attempts to reclaim and redeem her body, leading to a beautiful conclusion.
The Hour of the Witch, Chris Bohjalian
Boston, 1662. Mary Deerfield is twenty-four-years-old. Her skin is porcelain, her eyes delft blue, and in England she might have had many suitors. But here in the New World, amid this community of saints, Mary is the second wife of Thomas Deerfield, a man as cruel as he is powerful. When Thomas, prone to drunken rage, drives a three-tined fork into the back of Mary’s hand, she resolves that she must divorce him to save her life.
But in a world where every neighbor is watching for signs of the devil, a woman like Mary–a woman who harbors secret desires and finds it difficult to tolerate the brazen hypocrisy of so many men in the colony–soon becomes herself the object of suspicion and rumor. When tainted objects are discovered buried in Mary’s garden, when a boy she has treated with herbs and simples dies, and when their servant girl runs screaming in fright from her home, Mary must fight to not only escape her marriage, but also the gallows.
Moving to my TBR list, I do love an historical fiction and a witch hunt novel… so I’m not quite sure why I haven’t got around to reading this yet.
Also, I had expected to find a long list of “The Hour of the …” titles, but this turned out to be the only one that I could find…
Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, Robin Sloan
Working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, it doesn’t take long for Clay to realize that the quiet, dusty book emporium is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few fanatically committed customers, but they never seem to actually buy anything, instead they simply borrow impossibly obscure volumes perched on dangerously high shelves, all according to some elaborate arrangement with the eccentric proprietor.
The store must be a front for something larger, Clay concludes. What he discovers is an ancient secret that can only be solved by modern means, and a global-conspiracy guarded by Mr. Penumbra himself…who has mysteriously disappeared.
Again, this has languished on my tbr for a while, always piqueing my interest but continually overshadowed by other reads…
Lake Wobegon Days, Garrison Keillor
Lake Wobegon Days is the marvellous chronicle of an imaginary place located somewhere in the middle of the state (but not on the map) and named after an Indian word meaning ‘Here we are!’ or ‘We sat all day in the rain waiting for you.’ From the narrator – a skinny Protestant kid fascinated by the Catholic church – we learn of the town’s beginnings and of the settlers who made their lives there. A contemporary classic filled with warmth and humour, sadness and tenderness, songs and poems, it is also an unforgettable portrait of small-town America.
I have such fond memories of this book. I can date when I read it: June or July of 1995, after my finals at University in that quiet time between my finishing the course that I had loved passionately (English Literature) and being about to start one that might lead to an actual career (law). Whilst that second course did lead to career as a barrister, my love for Literature was what drew me away from it again, into teaching. And of course blogging.
The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro
Stevens, the long-serving butler of Darlington Hall, embarks on a leisurely holiday that will take him deep into the countryside, but also into his own past. Reflecting on his years of service, he must re-examine his life in the face of changing Britain, and question whether his dignity and properness have come at a greater cost to himself.
I’m not sure I like this book cover… but I adore this book, and anything by Ishiguro. This was my first foray into his writing and it is gorgeous: Stevens in The Remains of the Day and Kathy in Never Let Me Go and Klara in Klara and the Sun are all riffs on the same theme, really: dignified, humane but not quite fully engaged in or accepted in the world…. The only Ishiguro that I didn’t love was The Buried Giant but maybe I wasn’t in the right place for that one.
Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman
When Tanis, Sturm, Caramon, Raistlin, Flint, and Tasslehoff see a woman use a blue crystal staff to heal a villager, they wonder if it’s a sign the gods have not abandoned them after all. Fueled by this glimmer of hope, the Companions band together to uncover the truth behind the gods’ absence–though they aren’t the only ones with an interest in the staff. The Seekers, a new religious order, wants the artifact for their own ends, believing it will help them replace the gods and overtake the continent of Ansalon. Now, the Companions must assume the unlikely roles of heroes if they hope to prevent the staff from falling into the hands of darkness.
Oh My Goodness, I am reading this one at the moment: it had cropped up on a couple of previous TTTs and I had such warm memories of it as a very young reader and an introduction to high fantasy. It is very old fashioned and tropey re-reading it but there is something charming about those tropes in this novel, the honour-bound knight, the dark magician, the grumpy dwarf…
At Night, All Blood is Black, David Diop
Alfa and Mademba are two of the many Senegalese soldiers fighting in the Great War. Together they climb dutifully out of their trenches to attack France’s German enemies whenever the whistle blows, until Mademba is wounded, and dies in a shell hole with his belly torn open.
Without his more-than-brother, Alfa is alone and lost amidst the savagery of the conflict. He devotes himself to the war, to violence and death, but soon begins to frighten even his own comrades in arms. How far will Alfa go to make amends to his dead friend?
This one I began and it is brutal! Gorgeously powerfully – literally – visceral from the opening pages. Being honest, it is one I put down to return to later and so far later has not arrived! Perhaps over the summer…
Velvet Was The Night, Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Mexico in the 1970s is a dangerous country, even for Maite, a secretary who spends her life seeking the romance found in cheap comic books and ignoring the activists protesting around the city. When her next-door neighbor, the beautiful art student Leonora, disappears under suspicious circumstances, Maite finds herself searching for the missing woman-and journeying deeper into Leonora’s secret life of student radicals and dissidents.
Mexico in the 1970s is a politically fraught land, even for Elvis, a goon with a passion for rock ‘n’ roll who knows more about kidney-smashing than intrigue. When Elvis is assigned to find Leonora, he begins a blood-soaked search for the woman-and his soul.
I really enjoyed Moreno-Garcia’s noir Velvet was the Night – perhaps not as much as Mexican Gothic but I still loved the characters and the way they escaped the brutality around them through music and art, and the way that that brutality still found a way to them…
The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern
The circus arrives without warning. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Against the grey sky the towering tents are striped black and white. A sign hanging upon iron gates reads:
Opens at Nightfall
Closes at Dawn
As dusk shifts to twilight, tiny lights begin to flicker all over the tents, as though the whole circus is covered in fireflies. When the tents are aglow, sparkling against the night sky, the sign lights up:
Le Cirque des Rêves
The Circus of Dreams
The gates shudder and unlock, seemingly by their own volition.
They swing outward, inviting the crowd inside.
Now the circus is open.
Now you may enter.
Wonderful. Exquisite. Charming. Magical… if you’ve not read The Night Circus before, you really must!
On Midnight Beach, Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick
When a dolphin takes up residence in Carrig Cove, Emer and her best friend, Fee, feel like they have an instant connection with it. Then Dog Cullen and his sidekick, Kit, turn up, and the four friends begin to sneak out at midnight to go down to the beach, daring each other to swim closer and closer to the creature . . .
But the fame and fortune the dolphin brings to their small village builds resentment amongst their neighbours across the bay, and the summer days get longer and hotter . . . There is something wild and intense in the air. Love feels fierce, old hatreds fester, and suddenly everything feels worth fighting for.
This is a YA book, shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal, and I loved it: a modern retelling of Irish myth, which simultaneously was an authentic depiction of of a closed and oppressive small town attitude of the 70s and a sympathetic retelling. And as a young lad I had become very interested in Irish mythology and I loved the characterisation of Dog Cullan, or Cú Chulainn from the mythology.
The Midnight Library, Matt Haig
Nora’s life has been going from bad to worse. Then at the stroke of midnight on her last day on earth she finds herself transported to a library. There she is given the chance to undo her regrets and try out each of the other lives she might have lived. Which raises the ultimate question: with infinite choices, what is the best way to live?
This was a book I had wanted to love… but couldn’t. The conceit was fantastic, that there is a library where the books contain all the other parallel lives that we could have lived but didn’t. What might our life have been like if we had not dumped that boyfriend, if we had kept up those swimming lessons, if we had stayed in that band we formed…?
Unfortunately, as Nora explored her other lives and possibilities, it became… repetitive for me. Too easy a lesson.
Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
For a policeman, there can be few things worse than a serial killer loose in your city. Except, perhaps, a serial killer who targets coppers, and a city on the brink of bloody revolution.
For Commander Sam Vimes, it all feels horribly familiar. Caught on the roof of a very magical building during a storm, he’s found himself back in his own rough, tough past without even the clothes he was standing up in when the lightning struck. Living in the past is hard, especially when your time travel companion is a serial killer who knows where you live. But he must survive, because he has a job to do: track down the murderer and change the outcome of the rebellion.
The problem is: if he wins, he’s got no wife, no child, no future…
Somehow, I had expected more Pratchetts in this list. I suppose I could have included I Shall Wear Midnight or Interesting Times or The Thief of Time but Night Watch is one of my favourites because, well, of Sam Vimes – he has a great arc and there is real pathos in this one alongside the humour, wit and humanity that it quintessentially Pratchett.
The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, Jonas Jonasson
Sitting quietly in his room in an old people’s home, Allan Karlsson is waiting for a party he doesn’t want to begin. His one-hundredth birthday party to be precise. The Mayor will be there. The press will be there. But, as it turns out, Allan will not . . .
Escaping (in his slippers) through his bedroom window, into the flowerbed, Allan makes his getaway. And so begins his picaresque and unlikely journey involving criminals, several murders, a suitcase full of cash, and incompetent police. As his escapades unfold, Allan’s earlier life is revealed. A life in which – remarkably – he played a key role behind the scenes in some of the momentous events of the twentieth century.
I almost decided not to include this one because, well, I really disliked it. I know many people who have raved about it and the conceit, again, is great: that the most unassuming person on the planet has inadvertently been involved in almost every world political event that occurred in the last hundred years. But the humour for me fell very flat very quickly, the characters were deeply unlikeable, the conceit repetitive… and I seem to recall an unpleasant quantity of violence… not for me. It does, however, fit this week’s brief!
Upcoming Top Ten Tuesday Themes
June 14: Books I Wish Had An Epilogue
June 21: Bookish Wishes (List the top 10 books you’d love to own and include a link to your wishlist so that people can grant your wish. Make sure you link your wishlist to your mailing address [here’s how to do it on Amazon] or include the email address associated with your ereader in the list description so people know how to get the book to you.)
June 28: Books On My Summer 2022 To-Read List
July 5: Most Anticipated Books Releasing In the Second Half of 2022
July 12: Book Covers That Feel Like Summer (Submitted by Ellie @ Curiosity Killed the Bookworm)
July 19: Freebie (Come up with your own topic!)
July 26: Books From My Past Seasonal TBR Posts I STILL Haven’t Read (Submitted by Dedra @ A Book Wanderer)